Igor Kim: Russia's great consolidator
A prolific bank buyer but notoriously publicity-shy, Igor Kim is little known outside his native Russia. In his first major interview with the international media, he talks about expanding into Europe, surviving a spell on Canada’s sanctions list and why global banking models are doomed to failure.
Illustration: Oliver Burston
In his 23 years in banking, Igor Kim has bought on average close to two banks a year. He has acquired them in just about every region of Russia, from Moscow to the extreme east. He has bought home-grown Russian banks and those left behind by western lenders dumping non-core holdings after the financial crisis. He has bought retail banks, corporate banks and specialist banks.
Last year, he moved into central Europe, buying a small bank in the Czech Republic – and he is looking to expand his horizons still further into the Balkans and even western Europe. He has also bought stakes in insurance, construction and real estate companies – and was estimated by Forbes two years ago to be worth $460 million.
Yet even within his home country relatively little is known about Kim. Partly, this is because he is notoriously private and publicity-shy. It may also be because much of his life and career has been spent in Russia’s far east. An ethnic Korean, he was born in Kazakhstan but grew up in a tiny port on Russia’s Pacific coast, where his father was a shipyard engineer.